Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman

AlexAsWellI’ve just finished reading Alex As Well by Alyssa Brugman (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2015, originally published in Australia by Text Publishing Company) for a YA Writing Course I’m on at the moment, run by Keris Stainton. Alex As Well is a novel about the difficulties faced by an intersex child, the immediate family and others who interact with child, family or both. For a book that is said to be the first to tackle this subject, there seems to be a lot of over-simplification and a perpetuation of stereotypes, both of which have raised a lot of questions.  Continue reading

The Island by Olivia Levez: Book Review

The Island by Olivia Levez (London: Rock the Boat, 2016).

The Island by Olivia Levez (London: Rock the Boat, 2016).

The Island is a Young Adult début novel by Olivia Levez, due for publication in March 2016. The story is about a troubled teenaged girl, Frances Stanton, or Fran, as she sometimes allows herself to be called. Fran is a complicated person, one who is often not seen beyond the trouble she creates around her. Nobody seems to see that creating trouble might be a cry for help. Nobody seems to see that her home life is a daily struggle for survival. Teachers, social workers, the adults around her all appear to fail her. Continue reading

Melissa by Jonathan Taylor: Book Review

Melissa by Jonathan TaylorJonathan Taylor’s novel Melissa (Cromer: Salt, 2105) is a multi-faceted novel on the impact of decay and loss, of the complexity of events leading up to these, as well as looking at what happens in the aftermath of such events. Anyone who has experienced loss, through death or through personal or societal change, or who is facing the inevitability of a loss, will be able to relate to at least some of the characters and events portrayed in this novel.

It is a study of what happens to one family as they face, experience and then struggle to cope with their loss. It shows that it is not just the immediate family that is affected but how events affect those around them. Continue reading

Glass Scissors by Bobby Nayyar (Limehouse Books)

Photo courtesy of Bobby Nayyar, Limehouse Books.

Photo courtesy of Bobby Nayyar, Limehouse Books.

In Glass Scissors, Bobby Nayyar, of Limehouse Books, has shared personal and intimate memories, lots of pain and honesty – like telling everything to a total stranger you think you’ll never see again, but who sits and listens intently as you speak. There’s a lot of pain and power held within that little packet of words. He has opened a treasure chest of secrets and rendered himself vulnerable by putting this autobiographical work out there. But he should not be afraid. Now that box has been opened, he has become so much more human and real to me, somewhat less of a stranger and more of a friend. Continue reading

Rowing Down the World to Auckland by Ted Dunphy

Rowing Down the World to Auckland

I’m very excited that my friend Ted Dunphy has published a book! It’s called Rowing Down the World to Auckland. Read on to learn more about Ted, his writing and the things that inspire him. Continue reading

Music at Jaipur Literature Festival #JLFSOUTHBANK

I’ve never before been to a literature festival that began each day with live music, or one that ended with a massive musical bang!

Both Saturday and Sunday began with the beautiful voice of Saberi Misra, accompanied by Dhanraj Persaud on tabla and Prabhat Rao on harmonium. They are all students at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, an Indian cultural institution teaching music, dance and languages as well as hosting other exhibitions and cultural programmes. Over 900 students attend the Bhavan. Continue reading

Street Food at Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 #JLFSOUTHBANK

Whenever anyone in or around the Southbank Centre needed food, there was a Kerb food market with lots of stalls selling South Asian street food, juice bars, a cocktail bar and a stall selling jelly coconuts that ran out of stock before the first day had ended. The glorious weather made it a pleasure to sit outdoors amidst the hustle and bustle of the market and people watch while eating lunch or taking a much needed drink.

Both food and drink in one shell!

Both food and drink in one shell!

Perfect for a warm day in May!

Perfect for a warm day in May!

On Saturday, I tucked in to a masala dosa washed down with coconut water straight from the coconut. On Sunday, it was a chicken wrap and a refreshing virgin mohito quenched my thirst, made specially for me as the cocktail stall didn’t sell non-alcoholic drinks.

 

Check out more about Kerb at  #KERBdoesAlchemy

Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 #JLFSOUTHBANK

I attended the Jaipur Literature Festival 2015 at the Southbank Centre, London on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th May. It was a busy weekend packed with talks, panels, lively debate, a Foyles book stall, book signings, a multitude of writers, activists, politicians, businessmen and even a Bollywood movie star. As is always the case with literature festivals, there were so many sessions on offer at the same time it was inevitable that sacrifices had to be made and V.S. Naipaul was sacrificed for a discussion on the Partition. There was sadness and celebration for a life that had been snatched away as people remembered Sabeen Mahmud who had been murdered only weeks before.

Shabana Azmi, Urvashi Butalia and friend smile for the camera.

Shabana Azmi, Urvashi Butalia and friend smile for the camera.

 

100K in 100 days – a challenge

Writing books is hard but it's fantastic when they end up looking like this.

Writing books is hard but it’s fantastic when they end up looking like this.

I’ve been working on a novel and in January I tried a 100 day challenge where members of the group try to write 100,000 words. I knew I would not be able to complete that challenge but I decided to see how many words I could write. I aimed for one page a day minimum and overall, I managed to that, missing only a handful of days in total over the 100 day period. I managed to make it to over half of that word count and was very happy to do so.

I’m now looking forward to the next challenge which I believe starts in July. Why not try it? The group is on Facebook, but the daily word counts are stored in a spreadsheet elsewhere.

My Guest Blog for Leila Rasheed, Writer Children’s Books

Image provided by Leila Rasheed.

Image provided by Leila Rasheed.

I wrote a guest blog about finding a character I could relate to for Leila Rasheed, who writes books for children. It’s about finding a character we can relate to, and one which stays in our memory long after reading the book.

I first met her when I was on the MA in Writing course at the University of Warwick, and met her recently at a Writer’s Networking event run by Writing West Midlands. We were discussing the lack of diversity of characters in books for children even today, as discussed in the Walter Dean Myers article. I told her about a character I had connected with when I was young because she was ‘someone like me’. But as an adult, I was afraid to re-read the book in case I was disappointed.

Leila invited me to write a guest blog for her about my experience of revisiting the book. If you would like to read it the whole of my blog, and the Q&A with Leila, you can find it in Leila’s blog.